Review: The Unlucky Prince

The Unlucky Prince by Deborah Grace White is the second ARC I've received from the Once Upon a Prince series, an anthology of fairy tale adaptations by different authors from the princes' perspectives. While The Crownless Prince was a creative gender-bent retelling of "Maid Maleen," this book is a basic retelling of "The Frog Prince" with no frills attached. It makes sense that the author chose to go this route since reversing the genders to have the princess turn into a frog would make the story focus more on her like in the Disney version, and it's something that has been done before. For such a short length, this book is somewhat slow and unimaginative, which was surprising coming from Deborah Grace White, who is usually a master worldbuilder. There were some references to her other books, including the dragon Rekavidur, a recurring character in most of her stories. The main character, Ari, is a minor character from Kingdom of Feathers, her retelling of "The Wild Swans" which I have not read. People who are not familiar with her other books may not have much to take away from this one, which is a shame since it is meant to be a standalone.

Prince Ari thinks all of his troubles have ended when the curse on himself and his brothers is broken thanks to the efforts of his sister, Wren, allowing them to live their lives as normal people again instead of as swans. He's out of the fire and into the frying pan when he visits a foreign kingdom, winds up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and gets himself turned into a frog! Just before this new curse, he falls for one of the kingdom's princesses, Violet. The inconvenient timing of his disappearance makes her think that she scared him away by coming on too strongly with her affections. He tries his best to comfort her in his new form, but the lack of ability to communicate as a frog makes it difficult to explain that he needs a kiss to break the spell. Meanwhile, Violet has problems of her own when she proposes a marriage alliance to a powerful merchant to end the trade issues with their kingdom despite the fact that she is actually in love with Ari.

What I enjoyed the most about this book was the sincerity of the characters. Violet genuinely wants to help her kingdom and to let Ari know how she feels about him. Ari is far from your average brave hero and instead does everything in his power to make Violet happy and communicate with her as much as he can in his frog form. His clumsiness and lack of fortune add an element of humor to the book, especially considering the bizarre circumstances that lead to his froggy transformation. The villains have a somewhat interesting backstory, but the book does not spend a great deal of time exploring it. The way that Ari manages to break his curse at the end is also pretty amusing and adds an unexpected twist to an otherwise familiar story.

For people who are already familiar with the books of Deborah Grace White and her sister, Melanie Cellier, this book has very little new content to offer. It is a bare-bones retelling of a well-known story with a clever princess who must unravel a political scandal to protect her family and her kingdom. Even though the series is called Once Upon a Prince, the book places just as much focus on Violet as it does on Ari. Since their roles are the same as in the fairy tale, it seems like the author did not fully understand the assignment. Despite being a quick read, the pacing is on the slower side. It isn't until halfway through the book that Ari is transformed into a frog, and there is very little that happens prior to that. The romance, while believable, has very little buildup. Violet proposes to Ari practically on the spot and later worries that she came off too strong. While it's nice to see characters who know what they want, their candor with each other leaves little room for a payoff at the end of the book.

The Unlucky Prince offers readers a straightforward and no-frills retelling of the classic "Frog Prince" story. While it may lack the imaginative world-building that Deborah Grace White is known for, the book still showcases the sincerity of its characters, particularly in the heartfelt portrayal of Violet's dedication to her kingdom and Ari's determination to please her. The book's slower pacing and minimalistic approach to the retelling may leave readers craving more depth and intrigue, but the sweet and humorous moments, along with an unexpected twist at the end, provide an enjoyable reading experience for fans of fairy tale adaptations. My next ARC to review from this series will be The Golden Prince by Alice Ivinya, so stay tuned.


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